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HIGHER & HIGHERS; Exclusive Calum earns pilot's wings before exams.

Byline: By Keith McLeod

A SCHOOLBOY has qualified to fly solo in a plane ... before even sitting his Highers.

Calum MacDonald passed the tough test just four days after his 16th birthday.

The milestone flight was originally scheduled for his birthday, but fog put paid to his hopes.

When the gloom eventually lifted, he passed after a 20-minute solo flight at Cumbernauld Airport, near Glasgow.

It means Calum has his "wings" before he even sits his geography and physics exams at school.

And it's all thanks to a misspent youth playing video games.

Now the teenager hopes to become a commercial airline pilot.

After fog grounded him on February 1, Calum had to rush back to his school, Stonelaw High in Rutherglen, near Glasgow, to sit his physics preliminary exam.

The Rangers fan has completed more than 26 hours' flying.

He began his flying lessons in twin-engine, two-seater aircraft when he was just 14.

His test was a solo flight made in a Katana DA 20 light aircraft on Sunday.

Proud mum Rosemary, 46, joked: "Some good actually came from Calum's interest in video games.

"He got hooked on the flight simulator game while still at primary school and most parents would not think that playing a video game could lead to a future career.

"Every lesson cost pounds 120 but to see him pass made it worthwhile."

Calum and dad Robert, 48, are flight and train fanatics.

Rosemary added: "As a family, we have had many weekends away where the hotel room had to have a view of a runway."

Calum's brother Jamie, 18, is at university and sister Rebecca, 13, is also a pupil at Stonelaw High.

Calum's ambition is to enter training for a commercial flying licence but he's got two years to fill before he can even start the training.

The minimum age for training is 18, and the threshold to hold a commercial licence is 21.

Calum, of Cambuslang, said: "I was quite confident because I knew I just had to keep calm.

"I really don't care if I'm the youngest pilot or not, the main thing for me was to pass the test."

CAPTION(S):

FLIGHT RELIEF: Calum,16, passed test
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 7, 2006
Words:367
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